Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Religion, Women and the Patriarchy

So anyway, last night I wrote this paper for my Intro to Feminism class. I am so loving this course. I thought it might suck, because I took Intro to Women's Studies last semester, and I knew they'd be similar, but this one is so much more interesting and thought-provoking. At the moment we're studying Marilyn French's and Mary Daly's theories on why Women came to be subordinate. I'll re-cap:

Marilyn French believed that Women's subordinance began with the first Human Societies. In ancient times, the people attributed life to 'Mother Nature'. They viewed the earth as their Mother, and believed that she gave them not only life, but nourishment as well (in the form of crops, rain, and the like). Early humans existed on what Mother Nature had to offer, and they worshipped her with thanks and appreciation in return.

Well, a time came when Mother Nature seemingly stopped doing her job. Maybe crops withered, or there was a flood, or perhaps a drought. French believed that due to the inconsistency of Mother Nature's 'offerings', that mankind began to take matters into their own hands. Through cultivating the soil (perhaps the earliest act of rape?), learning to tell time, gauge days and predict weather, man began to have a bit of power over Nature. He could control his own destiny and provide nourishment and protection for himself. French believes that slowly, through conquering and learning to manipulate the earth, early man began to have a bit of a 'God Complex', no longer worshipping and revering Mother Nature.

Where do we come in? Well, Mother Nature was seen as a life-giver and a provider of sustenance. Through our bearing of children and the act of breast-feeding and child-rearing, we fall into that same category. French's theory suggests that men of early times came to equate their female partners with Mother Nature, who they found inconsistent and dissapointing. Through these feelings, Women began to be viewed as subordinate.

A woman named Mary Daly had a different theory. She believed that Women's subordinance could be directly related to Religion, or more specifically, the triad: Judaism/Islam/Christianity, with Judaism being the main focus. She stated (in a somewhat blasphemous manner!) that the God of Judeo-Christianity was on the ultimate 'power trip'. As it suggests in the Torah, Koran, and Bible, God often stated how powerful he was, how omnipresent, how he 'knew everything, created everything, and was in charge of everything'. Anyone who reads these sacred texts cannot doubt that the Christian/Islamic/Judaic God was displaying 'power over' humankind.

God himself chose to dwell away from his human subjects, being 'not of this earth' - in essence, the farthest away from humankind as he could possibly be. This suggets that God is the subject and man the 'other'.

But the interesting part is this: Adam was created by God, and Jesus was apparently the son of God. Also the Bible says that man was 'made in God's image'. Because of these things, we naturally equate God with Man. Most even picture God as a man. So if God = Man and Man = God, where does that leave Woman? An afterthought. And as a 'giver of life' and 'nourisher', she is still equated with Mother Nature. God has stated time and again in sacred texts that HE is all-powerful and he is the supreme creator of life. Does this manner of speaking mean to put Women on guard, by saying, 'you might be able to give birth, but I'm still the supreme being'? Daly's theory suggested that the seemingly male, power-loving God of the triad is solely responsible for Women's subordination, by implying that she's irrelevant and has 'false power'.

Both theories are absolutely fascinating. I personally (and this may surprise folks seeing as I'm a Religions Major) find French's theory more plausible. It isnt that I find Daly's implausible, per se, it's just that I think by the time Judaism formed, and then Christianity and Islam, Women's Subordination was already in full-swing. What I do find possible is that both theories could co-exist. Perhaps Women first starting being persecuted due to French's theory, and these attitudes and feelings carried on down the years until ancient Judaism begun, and those views carried on into the Religion, flavored the views on God and were written into the Torah (and eventually, the Bible and Koran)."

Just some thoughts and ideas I had while in my Womens Studies class.

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